There are lots of interesting facets to the recent discovery of a small water beetle that, when ingested by a frog, motors its way all the way through the frog and out its back door, soiled but unscathed.
One is that it was discovered at all. In order to discover this, one would have to spend a fair amount of time watching a frog’s butt to see if anything that came out of it walked away on its own, which, since it would be an unanticipated event, seems unlikely as a way to pass the time, even during a pandemic. But that’s because you don’t know Dr. Shinji Sugiura. Dr. Sugiura is a curious beetle guy. So he put a frog and the beetle into a tank and started filming. And that is how he got that prize footage of the beetle shooting out the frog’s butt and swimming away. And to think that his mother had always told him he wouldn’t amount to anything!
Nearly every other creature on the brink of death might be cautioned against running toward the light, but inside a dark frog, it turns out to be just the ticket. The whole trip took the beetle six minutes, which isn’t enough time to be digested. Dr. Sugiura naturally wondered how the beetle accomplished the feat–swam, ran as fast as his six little legs could carry him, hitched a ride on an Express Turd–so he gummed up its legs and sent it back in, and sure enough the unfortunate insect reemerged six days later as butt juice and beetle bits. He concluded the unhampered beetle in fact ran through the acidic digestive tract making little ow noises like a barefoot kid on hot asphalt. Remarkable.
“That was smoking gun evidence that they are using their legs,” agreed Nora Moskowitz, who studies frog digestion at Stanford University but wasn’t involved in the study.
[What do you do? Oh, I study frog digestion at Stanford University.
Pleased to meet you. I’m in beetle pooping.]
This is considered a tremendous achievement on the part of the beetle, although it should be pointed out that corn kernels do pretty much the same thing all the time, and they’re just vegetables.
There are other beetles that induce frogs to vomit, a.k.a. the Jonah method. Jonah was, of course, the prophet who was swallowed by a whale. He spent three days in the belly of the creature before God made it hork him up onto dry land. Many scoff at this tale and consider it an allegory of some kind, but we are assured by the good people at ChristianAnswers.net that this was a true event and they can prove it because the Bible tells us so. In a nod to skeptics and heretics, they also suggest it’s possible that there is always some air in the whale’s stomach, and, as long as the animal it has swallowed is still alive, digestive activity will not begin.
I did not know this about digestive activity, and had suspected stomach acids weren’t that precious about the liveliness of their projects. I would consider it much more likely that God didn’t create digestive juices until the millionth day. So I don’t think much of this theory, and, really, neither do the good people at ChristianAnswers.net. They say the most likely explanation is that it was a Miracle. I quite agree.
But should I ever be threatened by a peckish whale, I’m going to lace up my Keds and try to go full water-beetle on the thing. That’s a lot of territory to cover in a short period of time, and there are lots of hairpin turns to negotiate, but I’d do it just for the chance to be violently whooshed out in a flocculent plume, which is the form whale poop takes.
In fact, “violently whooshed out in a flocculent plume” is going to be my new euphemism for dying.
The best part of Dr. Sugiura’s experiment is his working assumption that at the point the beetle skids to a halt just inside the frog’s sphincter, it starts tickling it. Or maybe knocking. You got to get that thing open somehow.
And then you’re off to do great things with your beetly life. In Jonah’s case, he finally took up the mantle of prophet, which is what God was trying to get him to do in the first place, even though he didn’t want to. It was a good decision, being a prophet. He could never say he didn’t see that coming again.
h/t Uncle Walt